Electeds Tour Damaged Libraries
By Luis Gronda
|Walls at the Arverne Queens Library branch were stripped and other fixtures were covered to prevent mold caused by damage from Superstorm Sandy. Photo by Luis Gronda.
Several Queens elected officials had the chance on Monday to tour libraries in the Rockaways that suffered extensive damage due to Superstorm Sandy and are still closed.
The Arverne, Broad Channel, Peninsula and Seaside branches of the Queens Library took on severe damage from the storm. According to Queens Library, those facilities suffered extensive interior flooding and water damage due to the natural disaster, causing $7.62 million in damage and the loss of 100,000 books, DVDs, CDs and other materials.
Damage from the storm can still be seen today. In the Arverne branch, all of the walls have been torn off due to the mold that built up from the flood waters and much of the equipment and tables that were saved inside were covered to prevent further damage. At the Peninsula Branch on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, most of the building was dark and vacant with the exception of boxes of books donated by community members.
The elected officials who surveyed the reconstruction efforts, along with officials from Queens Library, were U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), Councilmen Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante said they expect the funding will be in place for the reconstruction of the four libraries, but what they are trying to figure out now is the process of how that will be done and who will do the actual work.
Meeks noted the importance of the Jan. 15 vote on the $60 billion Superstorm Sandy relief bill that was rescheduled after several New York and New Jersey lawmakers criticized House Speaker John Boehner for not holding the vote before the previous body of Congress ended their session at the end of December.
The house approved a $9.7 billion package that covers flood insurance claims for home and businesses owners and the Jan.15 vote will be for the rest of the $60 billion package bill.
Meeks said that money will go to many of the elected officials representing the areas hit by the storm and they will have discretion of how to use that money, which should include libraries.
“Libraries are something that I think should appeal to anyone because you know it is the essence of the community,” he said.
The Congressman added that he does not want to assume that the bill will pass because of how the vote for the flood bill turned out.
“When you have 60 individuals who voted ‘no’ on the $9.7 billion dollars, which is simply for flood insurance, I’m nervous until we have the vote on the 15th and it has passed,” Meeks said.
As for the four libraries, the dollar amount of the damage it received was massive. According to Queens Library, the Peninsula branch received the most damage, costing about $3.5 million in total, with most of that belonging to repairs for the building itself. Arverne is second with a little over $1.9 million in damages. Seaside has almost $1.2 million in damages and for the Broad Channel branch; the total cost of damages is $939,940.
The reconstruction for the Broad Channel branch is near completion and will reopen in February, according to Queens Library. As for the other three, the Arverne location should reopen next year and currently has a temporary location open next door. The Seaside branch is expected to open once again at the end of this summer and Peninsula will take a little more than a year to reopen, a Queens Library spokeswoman said. There is a temporary location also open near the Peninsula branch, while a mobile library will soon be near the Seaside branch, which serves Rockaway Park.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at email@example.com.